CASTINE — In 1999, George Stevens Academy and Maine Maritime Academy took a chance and organized the first Downeast Invitational Regatta for high school sailors. Seventeen years later, the party is still going on, and the sailors are still coming from all over New England.
Last weekend, teams from 16 high school and community sailing programs descended on Castine for two days of dinghy racing that MMA sailing coach and Principal Race Officer Charles Barclay called “remarkably tight.”
Light winds limited the regatta to just 10 races, five for each of the two fleet divisions, with six of them sailed on Saturday.
Yarmouth High School edged the Marblehead (Mass.) Magicians by just two points to win both the James Modisette Trophy, given to the overall regatta winner irrespective of state or school affiliation and the Maine Schools Sailing Association Griff Fenton Trophy for the top Maine finisher.
It might have been a very different story.
“Two of the top three teams had boats scored OCS [On the Course Side] in the first race, showing that the level of competition was intense,” Barclay said. “The Marblehead Magicians and Belmont Hill [Massachusetts] varsity teams both pushed the eventual regatta winner Yarmouth Clippers. We will expect to see some of these athletes competing [on college teams] in NEISA in the fall.
The two Hancock County schools in the regatta had a difficult time in difficult conditions.
The George Stevens Academy No. 1 team finished 11th overall. The No. 1 Mount Desert Island HS team finished 15th. The schools’ second teams finished 16th and 17th, respectively.
For the MDI Trojans, the light, fluky winds and strong currents were a big factor.
“Making decisions on course direction and tactics becomes more important in light winds because there is not the opportunity to change quickly and reset,” MDI Coach George Deans said Monday. “Everyone had a chance to learn light air sailing skills.”
The GSA Eagles’ first A-boat “had a decent regatta,” Coach Carsten Steenberg said, finishing sixth in their 20-boat fleet.
In the B-fleet, skipper Yvonne Rogers and her crew, Dillan Morey, had third and tenth-place finishes as their two best results.
“This B-boat delivered the best starts on Sunday,” Steenberg said. It “won the boat start twice, and in general had great boat speed,” but weren’t able to stay in clear air and had a difficult time rounding the mark in the light conditions.
Both local teams saw some excellent performances.
For GSA, Steenberg said, the second B-boat skipper Eliza Guinness and crew Dylan DesFosses “had a great regatta, being better than mid-fleet in several races.”
For the Trojans, Kincaid MacCulloch skippered the B-boat all weekend, with Kirstin DiMauro crewing on Saturday and Kevin Elk on Sunday.
“Kincaid had a 6, 7 and 8 for our best finishes,” Deans said. “His total score equaled the B-boat for the conglomerate Southern Maine Team which finished 4th overall.”
Barclay was impressed with the overall quality of the sailors who took part in the weekend event.
“The athletes demonstrated they are on the path to be competitive collegiate sailors,” he said in an email on Monday. “We saw aggressive port tack starts, crisp roll tacks, reading shifts, saw plenty of tight mark roundings, several protests and many close finishes.”
That enthusiasm bodes well for the future of what has become one of the biggest high school regattas in the Northeast.
“We are enthused about the event and considering a greater role [for MMA] for next year’s event.”